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Monday, April 30, 2007


The Doha Players are holding a Cabaret at Garvey's. The Cabaret starts at 7.30 and the QR100 price includes dinner. There are still plenty of tickets left for Thursday (other days are sold out) and these can be booked over the phone on 4474911.

Clubs and societies in Qatar

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Best blogs in Qatar

I always feel rather guilty that I am listed with the Qatar Blogs Project, but don't list all the blogs in my side bar, as we are supposed to.

Unfortunately, there a large number of blogs, which would take up valuable side bar space. In addition, many of the blogs have also been abandoned, or are only posted to only rarely. Some haven't been touched since 2005!

Ultimately, I want control over who I link to, and putting Qatar Living's code into my blog would stop me from having that. However, it's a shame as there are some excellent blogs. So instead of putting them all on my side bar, I've listed my favourites in the post below.

Like Clockwork Orange: The author, a Filipino working 16 hours a day six days a week and sharing a room with two other men somewhat lacking in personal hygiene, blogs on his single day off. It was never going to be the most cheerful blog. However, the posts are thoughtful, moving and very well written.

No longer at ease
An Australian-Somalian deeply disturbed by the events and injustice of the world around him blogs on the politics and conflicts of the region around Qatar.

City of dreams & City of Sensex: An Indian blogging about both Qatar and the city he loves, Bombay.

Mohamed's blog: A South Africa (journalist?) blogs about media, technology and culture.

Morad's bloggie: An IT specialist blogs about IT and internet developments.

All Abroad - Another IT fanatic, with a keen interest in perl. What really interests me is his latest project, Qatar Journal, an online newspaper, which he is planning to launch properly on the 12th of May.

Life on the Spot: A long running blog run by a Filipino couple. Alternates between family and life in Doha. Plenty of useful information if you are thinking of coming to Doha.

Marjorie in Qatar
: Lots of thoughts and musings on Qatar news.

Musings of a Greeker: This chap is not a frequent poster, but I like his writing style, and he has some great photos.

Expressions Unlimited: I like this blog's template - it took me aback when I first clicked on it. The title of the blog says it all - photographs, poetry and stories.

Cat in the Gulf
- this blog is no longer a Qatari blog - cat has moved to Dubai. However, as she's been blogging so long about Qatar, not to mention being one of the founder members of Qatar Chatter, I think she's deserves inclusion in a list of best Qatar blogs.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Qatar moves into groceries...

Delta 2, which is an investment vehicle owned by the Qatari Royal Family and not a futuristic space ship, has bought a 17.4% stake in UK supermarket giant Sainsbury’s. This almost equals the 18% held by the Sainsbury family itself, who must be feeling rather miffed.

So is the Qatar Royal family interested in moving out of oil and into the grocery business? In actual fact, they are more interested in the huge property value locked up in the supermarket giant. While the company trades on a share many multiples of it profits, its property portfolio is thought to be worth billions.

By buying such a large share of the company, Delta 2, along with other shareholders, can pressurise the company into selling and leasing back its property portfolio. In the process it will raise billions of pounds of cash which it can return to shareholders such as Delta 2, and make Qatar even richer. This is, of course, necessary – as this post by Witisnswk points out, Qatar is worryingly lacking in billionaires.

In the meantime, it would be nice if its adventures into the grocery business would lead it to invite some of the British supermarket chains to set up in Qatar. At the moment, Carrefour is the only major international supermarket chain in Qatar. Carrefour is rather lacking compared to competitive British supermarkets – they have not even managed to work out how to weigh vegetables at the counter, necessitating long weights in the vegetable sections while a member of staff frantically weighs, bags and tags customers’ purchases.

Qatar is very sensibly pouring large chunks of its oil and gas money into investments abroad. It hopes, in ten years time, to be able to function independently of oil and gas revenues. Given the way things are going, it may also soon be able to build that futuristic space ship...

Also see:

Qatari group admits Sainsbury's stake (Yahoo!Finance)

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Cloud 9

Although the notice says clearly that the club is members only, rules of entry to the Cloud 9 Bar at the Merweb hotel in Al Sadd street seem to vary from visit to visit. On my first visit with a friend, we were asked to pay a 50 riyal cover charge. We decided not to bother.

On a subsequent visit we were turned away for not being members. On my third and most recent visit my friend and I were accompanied by our wives and were promptly let in (no cover charge). We did have to give our ID cards, which were scanned into a computer.

When and if you gain access to Cloud 9, big doors are unlocked and opened. Hold on tight, or you’ll be blown over by a blast of chilled air from the air-conditioners. Enter, and the bar at first seems huge – an illusion provided by the mirrors at the far end.

The light is low, blue and seductive, and the walls are decorated by drawings you would never expect in a strict Muslim country. The service is good, and the waiters are aided by trays that light up to illuminate the drinks balanced on top. The customers we saw, many of them Asian, were young, trendy and cool. Most of them were already paired off in couples.

The bar had a pleasingly sleazy atmosphere which suits decadent Westerners such as ourselves. Essentially it seemed a place where you can get away from the strictures of Qatar society. As the price of alcohol was not murderous (by Qatar standards), it's probably a place I’ll be returning too. If they let me in, that is.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Clubs and Societies in Qatar

There's a huge number of clubs, societies and associations in Qatar, and this is not an all inclusive list. If you would like another club included here, or if any details here are incorrect, please contact us or leave a comment. (Where email addresses have not already been listed on the net we've written them out using at instead of the @ sign to prevent spamming.)

Note - Future updates will now be made to our website version of Clubs and Societies in Qatar.

Alcoholics Anonymous
24 hour help line: 560 5901 Further information: Steve +974 5283678 Paul +974 5197719 Email: aainqatar@hotmail.com

Al Khor Toastmasters
Contact details can be found here: www.alkhortoastmasters.com/executives/executives.htm

Al Shaqab Riding Club
Provides riding lessons for members.
Tel: + 974 4812061 Address: PO Box 90055

American Women's Society
Tel: +974 483 6527

Australians and New Zealanders in Qatar
Email: auziq@yahoo.com

Tel: +974 487 0170/431 8776
Location: Al Bhustan Clubhouse

Canadians in Qatar
Email: canadiansinqatar@fastmail.fm

Doha Club
Tel. +974 4418822 Address: PO Box 3666

Doha darts league

Email: tankard@qatar.net.qa

Doha Golf Club
Email: info@dohagolfclub.com Tel: +974 4832338
Address: PO Box 13530

Doha Hash Harriers
Tel: +974 524 7889/580 3118.

Doha Home Schoolers
Contact: dgallew26@gmail.com Tel: +974 488-1797

Doha Players
Amateur dramatics group and organiser of the annual Dunestock festival.
Tel/fax: +974 4474911 Address: PO Box 5748
Email: doha_players@yahoo.com doha_players@qatar.net.qa

Doha Rugby Union FC
Tel: +974 468 3771

Doha Sailing Association
Location: Between Oasis and Marriot hotels, although there are rumours or relocation.
Tel. +974 4439 840 Address: PO Box 4398

Doha Singers Choral group
Conducted by Father Ian of the Anglican Church

Doha Sub Aqua Club
Allied to BSAC. Location: Ras Abu Aboud
Lisa Jones +974 5836240 Email: lisaanne_jones@hotmail.com

Doha Toastmasters
Meets twice monthly. Contact: dohatoastmasters@usa.net

Dukhan Sailing Club
Tel: +974 4716225

Duffer's Squash League
Email: chris_coull@hotmail.com

Garvey's European Club situated off Salwa Road. Feels like a British pub, and serves British food such as fish and chips. Also has swimming pool and gym. Contact: +974 +974 468 7381

International Potluck Group
Email: international_potluck@yahoo.com

Qatar Automobile and Touring Club
Tel: +974 4413265 Address: PO Box 18

Qatar Badminton Club
Tel: +974 4683 293 Address: PO Box 2761

Qatar Bowling Centre
Tel: +974 4443355 Address: PO Box 9230

Qatar Chess Association
Associated with the World Chess Federation.
Tel: +974 4944 292 Fax: +974 4944286 Address: PO Box 22012, Doha, Qatar

Qatar cycling federation
Tel: +974 4475834 / 4475522 Fax: +974 4474019 Address: P.O.Box: 22512

Qatar Dune Riders Club
Tel: +974 5562274 Email: Qatarduneriders at hotmail.com

Qatar Golf Lovers
Tel: +974 553 1648

Qatar Judo Federation
Tel: +974 4689218, 4689219 Fax: +974 4689215 Address: PO Box 23554
E-mail: mailto:qatarjudo@yahoo.com

Qatar Kite surfing Club
Also offers lessons. Tel: +974 535 0336 Email: qatarkitesurfing@hotmail.com

Qatar Natural History Group
Organises trips around Qatar and lectures about Qatar's natural History.
Contact: David Robert Shaw
Email: dr11 at cornell.edu Joyce Email: jba2001 at qatar-med.corbell.edu

Qatar Philatelic and Numismatic Club
Location: Al Sadd Street near the British Council Tel: +974 432 3292 Fax: 432 4435

Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club
Tel: +974 4 80 60 11 Mobile: +974 5524 521 Fax: +974 4 80 99 29 Address: P.O. Box 15895

Qatar Motorbike Club
Tel: + 974 550 7876 Email: qmg@zapmans.net

Qatar Rugby Football Centre
Tel: +974 4683293 Address: Po Box 8453

Qatar Sea Angling Association
Tel: +974 5500179/466 6605

Qatar Scientific Club
Tel: +974 458 3780/27 or : +974 469 6200

Also see: What to do in Qatar

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Soctra cormorant
A socotra comorant bobs up and down on the startling green blue water at Al Ruwais Harbour. While this was on its own, as many as 20,000 have been known to fly together in search of fish. In October some 50,000 of these birds gather on the nearby Hawar islands. See this page on Arabian Wildlife for more details.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tour companies in Qatar

Here's a list of tour operators in Qatar. The only one we've had a bad experience with is QIT, who cancelled a trip to the Inland sea with 12 hours notice because they had a larger booking!

Alpha Tours, Qatar
P.O. Box 13530, Doha, Qatar
Tel: + 974 4837815
+ 974 4837809
Fax: + 974 4832610
Email: info@alphatoursqatar.com
Website (currently under construction)
Dubai website

Arabian Adventures
Tel :+974 4361461
Fax :+974 4361471
P.O. Box: 4476, Doha, Qatar

E-mail: arabvent@qatar.net.qa

Black Pearl Tourism Services
PO Box 45677 Tel: +974 4357333
Fax: +974 4354888
P.O. Box 45677
E-mail: blackpearl_qtr@hotmail.com

Desert Adventure
Tel: +974 436 2455
Fax: +974 436 1772

Gulf Adventures
P.O. Box 18180
Phone : (+974) 4315555
Fax : (+ 974) 4324060

Qatar International Adventures
P.O. Box 13915 Doha, Qatar
Tel: +974 455 3954
Fax: +974 467 6184
Email: info@qia-qatar.com

Qatar International Tours (QIT)
PO Box 9920, Doha, Qatar Tel: +974 4361461
Email: info@qit-qatar.com

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I've mentioned several times how safe Qatar is, and how low the crime rates are. Unfortunately, crime seems to be on the increase. A favourite trick at the moment is to follow a women from an ATM in a shopping mall and snatch her handbag when she is not looking. Discussion of this trend with several examples can be found here http://www.qatarliving.com/node/12576#comments .

One can only speculate as to the causes of this very sudden crime wave, but low wages and a rising cost of living can contribute to it. Many workers come to Qatar without a clear idea of every day living costs, often have borrowed money from unscrupulous agents who charge extortionate interest rates (illegally). The workers are also under pressure to send money to families back home. Perhaps it is no surprise that crime is on the up. In the meantime - watch those bags!

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Life in Qatar

“Living in Qatar” – this is what I typed into the search engine a couple of years ago when I first considered coming to this tiny but extremely rich country. I didn’t find much of an answer then, so here’s a snapshot of what life in Qatar is like, with links to more detailed posts.

Alcohol – you can buy alcohol in hotel bars, although you’ll pay for it. Alcohol can be bought with an alcohol permit up to a limit of ten percent of your income. Drinking outside the house or licensed premises is illegal. See Buying alcohol in Qatar and The Price of Alcohol in Qatar for more info.

Safety – generally this is a very safe country, with extremely low crime rates. There does seem to have been a rise in crime recently, but violent crime is still virtually non-existent.

Sex in Qatar – heterosexual sex outside marriage is illegal. What happens in practice (and contrary to just a few years ago) is that relationships conducted in private are tolerated, although couples caught having sex in public will be prosecuted and deported. Muslims will also be lashed. Some prostitutes do manage to sneak into the country, and from time to time a bunch are rounded up and deported. Homosexual sex is illegal outright, although obviously in a country with a ratio of two men to every one women and huge restrictions on meetings between the sexes, it is rife.

People – it might surprise you to learn this, but Qataris are very much a minority in this country. The largest population group is probably Indian, but there are also large numbers of Sri Lankans, Nepalese, Philipinos, Pakistanis, Africans, Egyptians and others.

Food - with such a range of people, there's a huge choice of food. Eating out is cheaper than in many countries in the West - a vegetarian Indian can cost less than two dollars. Seafood is particularly good value.

Religion – Yes, Qatar is a very religious country. People will try and convert you to Islam – they are concerned for your soul. While proselytizing back is illegal and could lead to you being deported, there is freedom of worship here, and there are a number of churches. Whatever your religion, you will soon become accustomed to the sound of the prayer call.

Police – there are no any longer religious police. Police are generally friendly and polite, and seem to be honest, although I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of them.

Dress – relaxed, and getting more relaxed. While all the advice you’ll see is to dress conservatively, in reality people wear shorts, shorts sleeved shirts and short skirts without a problem.

Entertainment - There are bars and hotel clubs, but don’t expect them be up to the standards of major international cities. Nevertheless, you can dance and get a drink. There are plenty of cinemas, including a 14 screen complex at City Centre showing both Arabic and Western movies in their original language. Ice-rinks and ten pin bowling are also available . There’s one national theatre, which is not very active, and an amateur theatre group called the Doha Players, who are very active. More effort seems to be going into providing entertainment, and these often take place in hotel auditoriums. Traditional entertainment is also available – sitting in a cafe, enjoying a shisha and sipping Turkish coffee while lounging on cushions.

Shopping – if you like shopping, put aside any reservations and come now. It’s good, really good, and it’s getting better. There are traditional markets and souqs, including the fantastic Souq Waqif., and huge malls – the latest addition, Villagio , is impressive even before it is finished.

Books – Just a few months ago the situation was dire. Now, however, Virgin Megastore has opened in Villagio and has a very good selection of books.

Things to do – You can do most things that you can do anywhere and a few that you can’t. Sand boarding and dune bashing are two activities which the adventurous can try. You might also want to sample the camel racing at Shahinaya. See Things to do in Qatar for more information.

Things to see – being such a tiny country (length) there’s not a huge amount to see, but the Inland sea and the singing sand dunes are both worth a visit. There are also plenty of forts and excavations for the historically inclined. The Qatar Natural History is a very active organization that organises trips around the country in addition to evening lectures.

Heat – you’ll know its hot but you may not be prepared for just how hot it can be. In July and August even the air conditioning can’t stop you from feeling the heat. Paradoxically, the thousands of air conditioner blasting hot air into the city raises the temperature above that of the surrounding desert. During these summer months outdoor activities cease and people retreat to the malls.

Nevertheless, this punishing heat is not around all year round. In December and January temperatures can even become chilly – and when this happens the country’s supply of heaters can run out rapidly. (See weather).

Online community – there wasn’t one when I came, but it is rapidly developing. Qatar living and Qatar blah blah are the two online forums, and there’s also a small blog community. Blogs can register with the Qatar blogs project on Qatar living to get links – and readers.

Work – there are strict rules concerning hours of work, but many employers ignore them. Long hours are the norm, although not for all (government workers spring to mind) and the private sector often work six days a week. See Working: Qatar styles

Anything we’ve missed? Leave a comment if so.

Also see: Qatar Surprise

Qatar Visitor Friends

Qatar Jobs

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Where’s the internet? Yet another Qtel rant...

I try to make sure that, as a minimum, I post on this blog every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. However, this Friday I was defeated by Qtel.

Yes, Q-tel has once again proved its inability to maintain a working internet connection.

I first noticed that the internet was missing on Thursday at around three o’ clock in the afternoon. I rang Q-tel. Nine minutes and thirty two seconds later a grumpy receptionist (tip, Qtel – give your telephone receptionists some training in basic politeness) admitted they were having problems. “We’ll fix it today, if God wills it”.

The next day the problem remained. A quick visit to my friends in the area confirmed the problem was not mine alone. One friend, upon ringing, had been told that the fault lay in her modem.

I rang again this morning, and was also told that the problem lay in my modem. When I told here I didn’t have a modem but a router, I was told the problem was in my router. Although I pointed out several times that the problem was not an isolated incident and could therefore not be related to a single piece of hardware, I was repeatedly told that the fault lay with me.

My friend then rang, to see if he could persuade them it was a general problem. He had great difficulty in explaining the problem. When he finally managed to explain it, and gave the general error code, the telehonist finally admitted it had a technical problem in our area. He then asked Qatar was doing about it. “Technical department, technical department,” the lady asssigned to internet technical problems said and hung up.

We did not receive one apology through out the four telephone calls. But let’s be reasonable – if Qtel had to apologise every time people had bad service, they wouldn’t have time to do anything else. Still, it would be nice if they didn’t take the attitude that they were doing us a favor by letting us pay sixty dollars a month for occasionally using the internet.

This is not the first time this has happened (it made the newspapers last time), but I can’t remember the problem lasting so long before. Could it be that anyone who could do anything is on their holiday?

It’s not even as if the service is very good in the first place. Qtel’s standard (expensive) adsl connection is 500 kbps. (I can’t remember the last time they upgraded, either). This compares to eight megabytes in the UK, which is itself slow (though now trialing faster speeds) – France is 24. So the UK is 16 times faster and France 48 times faster than Qatar’s ADSL is supposed to be.

Supposed to be. For in fact the internet, as anyone who uses
internet frog will know, often slows down to dial up speeds of 30 kbps or less. In fact it sometimes becomes so slow it is just unusable. God help anyone who is actually trying to do business on-line.

Remember, we are not writing from an impoverished third world country struggling to buy modern technology. Qatar is the third richest country in the world. Yet somehow Qtel is still unable to keep up with the 20th century, let alone the 21st. Never mind. We have been promised competition, and like everyone else I know, I have sworn to switch to them when, and if, they arrive.

So, is the internet in my area back yet? No, I’m writing this from an internet shop in another area. I will, of course, be sending Qtel the bill.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Shade, shadows and flowers

While work continues apace at Al Khor, much of which is currently impossible to navigate by car, flowers everywhere greatly increase the attractiveness of this little town.

An attractive display of flowers on Al Khor's Corniche

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

How does it feel to work for the richest country in the world?

Qatar's GDP per capita (i.e. the country's total income divided by its population) has reached $62,914, with growth of 24.2 percent in 2007 according to this report in the Peninsula. Just to compare, the average GDP of the whole world in 2006 was approximately $10,000, with growth of 5.1% in 2006, while America enjoyed a GDP per person of $43,500.

Actually, it's not quite the richest country in the world. It's lagging just behind Bermuda (with a GDP of $69,900 in 2004) and Luxemburg ($68,800 in 2006). But, as we've argued before, the real wealth of Qataris is far greater than suggested by these figures, as the majority of the population consists of expatriate workers who share little of the economic pie. These labourers are often employed on as little as 600 riyals a month, or a yearly income of just under 2,000 dollars a year. Admittedly, some highly skilled expatriate workers earn a salary far in excess of 60,000 dollars. However, these do form a distinct minority.

Qatar's success has much to with its oil, and in the future will have much to do with its gas. It's not entirely luck, though. In contrast to many other oil and gas rich countries, Qatar has provided a stable political environment and is investing heavily in its infrastructure. They're also very good at negotiating with oil companies, and receive extremely good royalties. The (financial) future looks good too: the country is investing heavily in the world economy, and is even considering buying Sainsbury's, the British supermarket giant. Its stated aim is to be able to function independent of oil revenues in the future.

So I come back to my original question. How does it feel to work for the richest country in the world? And do you feel well rewarded for your own personal efforts in making Qatar the richest country in the world?

(Figures in this post have been taken from the CIA world factbook.)

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Salary ranges and cost of living in Qatar

"It's terrible here. It's slave labour."

I was at a party. The man speaking was an American engineer working for an oil company in Qatar on a tax free salary of 12,000 dollars per month with benefits.

"Are you talking about the labourers here?" I replied.

"No, us man."

I spoke to another man recently when I was visiting an independent school. He was leaving the school for another job.

"It's a really good job," he told me. "It pays 800 dollars a month." He looked around the classroom. "Some of these guys earn 4000 dollars a month," he whispered to me in awe.

As you can tell from this discussion, and from a quick search under salary ranges on Qatar Living, what is a good wage in Qatar is open to interpretation. The range of wages are huge - starting from the 100 dollars paid to some cleaners (recently revealed by the papers - the cleaners had actually been promised more), 160 dollars for labourers and climbing to huge amounts to highly skilled Western expats.

What people need also varies hugely - Qatar National Bank recently suggested an expat family needs nearly 8,000 dollars to live in Qatar. However, my family (with accommodation and bills paid for) spend about a quarter of that, even after paying nursery fees for two children. I have single male friends who live without skimping on about 1000 dollars a month (the ladies seem to spend rather more for some reason). Meanwhile, shop workers I know save most of their 400 dollar a month wages.



This is the biggest cost and hassle, and one you really want your employer to sort out for you. Many low paid workers share rooms - often with 4 or more sleeping in one small area. While you might get a small one bedroom apartment for around 1600 dollars a month, Qatar National Bank have estimated the average cost for rent and utilities for a family with two children at more than 3000 dollars a month. See Cost of living: renting accommodation in Qatar for more details.

Food and day to day needs

Vegetables are relatively expensive. Expatriate food is imported, and is usually sold at a premium to the country it is exported from. This can be seen at Mega Mart, where I have seen mince pies with a price tag of 1 pound (around 7 riyals) and a Qatar price tag of 24 riyals, Meat, however, is reasonable, fish is often incredible value and you can reduce costs by buying vegetables from the market off Salwa Road or fish fresh off the boat on the Corniche. Nappies and infant formula is more expensive than the UK. We generally spend about 700 dollars a month to provide for three adults and two small children (including eating out).

Paradoxically eating out seems cheap to Westerners such as us. Many labourers will pay a restaurant fee in the region of 70 dollars a month for three meals a day for a month. Prices go up from there, but even at the top range value is normally far, far better than in the UK.


Taxis start at less than a dollar and cost 25 cents a kilometre - not bad, considering Doha's a pretty small place and nowhere is very far away. Buses charge a flat fee of two riyals (50 cents) inner city and 7 riyals (2 dollars) between towns.

Motoring costs

New vehicles are cheaper than the UK but more expensive than in America. A new four wheel drive costs from eighty thousand up. Older vehicles are expensive because of the huge demand for second hand cars. Maintenance and repairs are cheap, although parts for American cars can be expensive. Petrol is ridiculously cheap. Fines can be pricey (3000 riyals or over 800 dollars for shooting a traffic light) and are due to increase. (see Driving in Qatar for more information.)

Out and about

Most things to do and watch are either free or very good value. Exhibitions are free, museums are free, horse racing is free and you can see world championship level motor racing for around sixteen dollars. (See our posts on what to do in Qatar, Superbike racing and Losail racing track.)

Alcohol and clubs

For prices at Doha's only offie see our previous post on the cost of alcohol. Clubs are usually free for women, and vary for men - 40 riyals is normal, although you can pay a lot more. Drinks out are obviously expensive - beer at its cheapest is at around five and half dollars a pint.

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Al Jazeera film festival

The 3rd Al Jazeera international documentary film festival, sponsored by Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, will open on 23rd April at the Sheraton Hotel. The aim of the festival is to promote understanding between different people and cultures. The festival will feature screenings of both nominated films and other outstanding films, debates related to films and exhibitions of books, equipment, photographs and historic documents. The festival will run until April 26th.

For more information see the Al Jazeera Film Festival website.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Al Zubarah Fort

The fact that Al Zubarah fort was built as recently as 1936 is testimony to the turbulent relations it had with its neighbour and one time master, Bahrain. There are a number of other ruins and excavations in the area, but this is the most complete and one of the best known, decorating many postcards and books. A cannon decorates the front of this fort, while the Qatari flag flutters proudly at the top.

Al Zubara fort
Until relatively recently, according to Discovering Qatar, it was used a police post, with prisoners held in the top rooms of the towers. These rooms could be reached only by reached by a rickety ladder. Now only one of these top rooms is accessible - still by ladder.

The ladder to the top rooms
When you arrive the caretaker will give you some keys, and you can let yourself into see the displays of findings from the nearby excavations. We were more interested in the old well - when you peer through the metal grid that closes off its top, you can still see yourself reflected in the water deep below - although our view was slightly spoilt by a floating bottles.

Climb up the internal stairs and you'll find curious holes in the metre thick walls. The holes allow light to come in but are twisted to make it difficult for enemies to fire into the fort. Wooden shutters are still used in the windows, and can be opened to allow the cooling wind in.

To get to Al Zubara fort, head out of Doha along North Road. Start looking for signs to Al Zubara after the turn off to Al Khor. You'll need to do a U-turn and head back a few metres before turning right. Then just follow the road until you get to the fort.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Qatar Shopping Festival

The third International Trade Fair will be held at the Qatar International Exhibition Centre from the 18th to the 23rd of this month, and will be open from ten to ten every day except Friday (four to ten.) Exhibits are expected from around 600 traders and companies originating from 29 countries ranging from Indonesia to Russia. The exhibition will include a children's area with magic shows, entertainment and an educational area.

Qatar Visitor e-store (U.S.)

Qatar Visitor E-store (U.K.)

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Qatar living

I was astonished to find that some friends of mine who have been here for years had not heard of the Qatar Living website. This forum is a mine of local information, and invaluable in a country where information often has to be prised out of reluctant hands. It's particularly valuable for people considering job offers in the country, and have those quirky little questions that are so hard to find an answer for.Bloggers can join the Qatar Blogs project, which instantly provides them with lots of links. There's a section for free classified ads, and an events section for people to keep up with what's going on in Qatar.In addition to providing practical information, a lot of people use the site socially as well. (From the amount some people post, you have to wonder just how busy some of them are at work!) Many frank opinions are posted, and sometimes exchanges can get heated. The moderater, Qatari, sometimes has to step in and remind people to play nice!

Perhaps the best result of Qatar Living is that people of different nationalities, culture and religions mix on-line. The resulting exchange of ideas will hopefully lead to a greater tolerance and understanding among this tiny but culturally diverse country - at least, among its on-line community!

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Qatar airways enables online booking

Qatar Airways often offers a competitive price for tourists flying via Doha. However, if you are flying to or from Qatar, you may find that Qatar airways are often not the cheapest option. Nevertheless, it is often worth flying with them because of the generous air miles they award. If you are flying to Qatar for the first time, make sure you keep hold of your ticket. You can join Qatar Airways privilege club and claim your air miles if it is within thirty days of your flight.

Today, Qatar airways has finally enabled its customers to book online. By doing so, Privilege customers can earn an extra 500 air miles. Not bad, when a flight to Bali is only 3,500 air miles.

Qatar Visitor e-store (U.S.)

Qatar Visitor E-store (U.K.)

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Al Ghalafa

Al Ghalafa shop in Souk Waqif, which has links to the dhow workshop, exists not just to sell goods but also to promote knowledge of Qatar's heritage. Old pictures of Doha and information about its history can be found in its shop.

Al Ghalafa shop in Souq Waqif
The picture of a pearl diver below was one of several where no paint or artificial colours had been used. Instead different shades of wood are combined to create vibrant pictures.

Picture in Al Ghalaf, Souq WaqifQatar Shopping

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Qatar's national anthem

Listen to Qatar's national anthem. (Reproduced with the kind permission of the National Anthem Info website.)

Like so much in Qatar, the National Anthem is new. The current emir was so unimpressed by the previous national anthem (then the shortest national anthem in the world) that he replaced it with this more stirring version. (The original version can be listened to here).

The meaning of the Anthem is as follows:

Swearing by God who upraised the sky,
Swearing by God who spread the light,
Qatar will always be free,
Elevated by the spirits of the loyal,
Follow the path of the ancestors,
And the prophets guidance.
In my heart, Qatar is an epic of dignity and glory,
Qatar is the land of the forefathers,
Our protectors at the time of war,
Doves at the time of peace,
And hawks at the time of sacrifice.

(Source: Amiri Diwan website.)

Also see: 

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Qatar Squash Classic

The Qatar WISPA Classic will be held in from April 13th to 17th in Khalifa International Tennis and Squash stadium. The competition is being held in April to replace the 2006 events, which should have been held in November 2006. Unfortunately both the men and women's events, with combined prize money of more than $200,000, were cancelled last year due to the renovation of squash facilities in Khalifa Stadium prior to the Asian Games.

Many of the world's top 20 players, including Nicol David, current number 1, will be playing. Tickets, as usual, are free. No schedule is available yet, but Qatar Squash Federation tells me that games should start at one o'clock most days. See http://www.squashtalk.com/html2/news07/apr/wispadraw07-4-1.html for details of the individual games.

For more details contact the Qatar Squash Federation
Tel: +974 4887671
Email: qatar_squash@qatar.net.qa

Also see: Qatar Football

Map of area

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Plaintive camel

Listen to the sound of this young camel bellowing after being separated from its mother at Doha's live animal market.

Qatar Sounds

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A trip to the Inland Sea

We stopped at the top of what appeared to be a sheer drop. “No, no, no,” said one of the lady passengers. Hassan, our driver, looked round with a grin. Then he gunned the car forward down the steepest slope I have ever been on.

We were on a desert trip to the Inland Sea. It had nearly notDriving on sand dunes taken place at all – just a few hours before we were due to leave QIT tours cancelled our trip because of “a larger booking.” Luckily, Arabian adventures proved able to organize a trip at a moment’s notice.

The Inland Sea, or Khor Al Daid, is a huge inlet surrounded by giant rolling sand dunes. Together with these sand dunes, it’s definitely Qatar’s most impressive natural feature.

There are no roads leading to the Khor Al Deid, you have to go off-road. If you decide to go there by yourself, make sure you go in a convoy – and bear in mind that you car insurance will be invalid off-road.

We chose to go with a tour group. QIT had asked us if we wanted extreme driving, and we'd said no. Arabian tours hadn't given us the option of saying no, which is why we were now sliding down a sand dune at an impossible angle.

The driver did things with the car that I had not known were possible. The experience can bestDesert Flower be likened to that of a roller coaster. We shot up steep sand dunes, skirted edges of sheer drop-offs and slid sideways down seemingly vertical mountains of sand. At several times we were scared stiff – but our driver knew what he was doing, and at no time did he lose control of the car.

After a helter skelter trip through the dunes, we arrived at the Inland Sea. This is an area rich in sea life – among other species, rare dugongs or sea cows can be found here. The water is incredibly clear, and across the sea you can see Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, it was so vast it was impossible to get a photograph which truly reflected its size.

After our stop here, we roared off again. This time our journey included a high speed trip over salt flats. At one point we stopped to examine flowers – friends who have been here for yearsSaluki hounds out training in the desert remarked they had never seen the desert as green as it is now.

Our next stop was a camp by the sea. There wasn’t a lot to do here, so we lounged on the cushions provided and waited for the staff to prepare a barbecued lunch.

On our way back our breath was taken away once more by the sand dunes rolling away before us. Some people had an even better view – para gliders were drifting high above us in the cloudless blue sky.

The trip cost us 265 riyals per person, and this included the meal and drinks at lunch time.

Some tour groups:

Arabian Adventures Tel. + 974 436 1461 Mobile: + 974 550 7337
Qatar International Adventures: Tel. +974 467 6190 Mobile: +974 552 7225
Black Pearl: +974 435 7333 +974 555 1169

Looking across the salt flats
Things to See and Do in Qatar

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Laughter Factory

The Laughter Factory will be held next week. The shows will begin at eight o'clock on Sunday 8th April (non-smoking night) and at nine o'clock on Monday 9th April. This month the laughter factory will feature former Southend goalkeeper Terry Alderton, T.V. actor, host and comedian Mickey Hutton and Tom Stadwill, who has appeared on ITV's The Comedy Store and BBC's The Live Floor Show. Tickets cost 85 riyals.

Telephone Ramada Hotel on +974 4417417 for more details. Alternatively, visit the laughter factory website.

Also see: Things to See and Do in Qatar

Qatar Visitor e-store (U.S.)

Qatar Visitor E-store (U.K.)


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Dhow Boatyard

Traditional Dhows, or Merkhab, are common sights in Qatar, and are still used commercially, although nowadays they are powered by engines rather than by sail. Dhows are still built in Qatar's dhow boat yard, which is sandwiched between the Oasis Hotel and the Sailing club on Ras Abu Aboud road.

A completed dhow at the Dhow Workshop in DohaIf you drive in, and briefly introduce yourself, you are welcome to look around, poke your nose around and take picture of the dhows. The boats you'll see include small multi-person rowing boats, fast-looking sailing boats and monster fishing dhows.

Men working on dhows
This is currently the only Dhow workshop in Qatar, and there have been rumours it is going to be demolished. However, there are plans to introduce more workshops, as well as a stipend to help owners maintain their costly wooden boats.

Also see: Things to See and Do in Qatar

Qatar Visitor e-store (U.S.)

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The price of alcohol in Qatar

How much does alcohol cost in Qatar? Assuming this might be as big a consideration for other expats as it is for us, we decided to make a trip to the booze shop to find out. (As if we needed an excuse!) The prices below, however, are only a representative sample, designed to give someone thinking of coming here a rough idea of the cost of alcohol in Qatar. (For information on the practicalities of buying alcohol in Qatar, see this post.)

Imperial Vodka (75 cl) 34 riyals/9 dollars
Smirnoff Vodka (75cl) 82 riyals/22 dollars
Absolute Vodka (75 cl) 85 riyals/ 23 dollars
Napoleon French brandy VSOP (1 litre) 55 riyals/ 15 dollars
Old Monk Rum (75 cl) 34 riyals/ 9 dollars
Grants whiskey (75 cl) 69 riyals/ 19 dollars
Glenfidich single malt whiskey 12 years 169 riyals/ 46 dollars
Case of 12 San Miguel Bottles (33cl) 110 riyals/ 30 dollars
Case of Oranjeboom 24 cans (50 cl) 118 riyals/ 32 dollars
Case of Fosters 24 bottles (35 cl) 128 riyals/ 35 dollars
Case of 20 Guiness cans 44cl 216 riyals/ 59 dollars
5 litre box red claret select 118 riyals/ 32 dollars
5 litre box Berri Estates rose 93 riyals/ 26 dollars
Easy drinking red and white wines 28/29 riyals 8 dollars
Bottle Rioja Monte de Cassio 2003 72 riyals/ 20 dollars
Bottle Rioja Monte de Cassio (Reserve) 2000 140 riyals/ 35 dollars
Merlot Chilean red 2004 48 riyals/ 13 dollars
Stanley Estates White wine (4 litres) 68 riyals/ 17 dollars
Nottage Hall Chardonnay (white) 2005 39 riyals/ 11 dollars
Eagle hawk Australian white 2006 57 riyals/17 dollars

Also see: Qatar Resident's Guide
Qatar Visitor Friends

Qatar Jobs

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Monday, April 02, 2007


A paraglider hangs high above the desert
A para glider soars above the desert. Messaieed, with its flame-throwing oil refineries, is visible in the background.

Also see: Qatar Image Library

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Elections in Qatar

Thousands of lucky Government employees got a holiday today while municipal elections were held. Twenty eight thousand citizens, including women, are allowed to vote in these elections.

While that seems a tiny amount in a city with a population which must be approaching 400,000, most of the population here are "foreigners". It's interesting here that you can ask a person where he or she is from and they'll say Sudan or Pakistan or India. But when you ask them about their country, they sometimes admit that they have never even been there!

People born and educated in Qatar retain their parents or grandparent's nationality even though their home is in Qatar. If you are one of these people, though, it's a scary existence. Not only do you have restricted property; lose your job and you'll have to leave your home, family and adopted country for two years before you can return.

Also see: Life in Qatar

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